The Hunger Games – Why The Trilogy Could Have Been So Much Better

I remember first watching The Hunger Games in 2013, just before Catching Fire came out. I also remember the chills and utter shock I felt at the end of the sequel, when Jennifer Lawrence looks directly into the camera, showing all of Katniss’ anger clear in her face.

They’re incredible films, and they make some amazing points. However, as a huge fan of the books, I can’t help but point out where they completely missed the mark.

Suzanne Collins wrote the dystopia trilogy as a commentary on capitalism and the media – or at least, those are some very heavy themes within the series. The Capitol is a rich city, with the people eating to excess and spending money on ridiculous things. The surrounding districts are working class – starving and living in poverty, providing resources to The Capitol. Every year, two teenagers from each district must fight to the death in order to ‘remember the past’, which is disturbingly romanticised by the privileged. The films are visually stunning, and they do hit some of the points. Unfortunately, the older I get, the more I realise how limited these films are.

In many ways, the media and marketing team did exactly what The Capitol did: they romanticised the entire thing. Instead of focusing on Katniss’ journey, there was so much focus placed on the love triangle. Are you Team Gale, or Team Peeta? That was the conversation everyone was having, but one we were being told to have. An interview moment that still stands out to me was when Willow Shields, who played Prim, was asked that very same question – she answered boldly, at age 11, saying “I’m Team Katniss.” It truly makes you understand how people, like The Capitol, could ignore the horrors of the games.

Another thing which limited the impact was the casting. Now, I will say that Jennifer and Josh played their characters incredibly. However, they were six and four years older than their characters. Katniss and Peeta were meant to be fresh faced sixteen-year-olds, looking younger than they were due to malnourishment and poverty. Instead, they were adults, which, in my opinion and many others, took away the impact of the games. They were meant to be disturbing to the audience because of their age, and the only actors who made the appropriate impact because of their youth were Isabelle Fuhrman (Clove), Amandla Stenberg (Rue), and Willow Shields (Prim). 

There are references to trauma, PTSD, and addiction in the films, but they’re so heavily glossed over that it’s easy to miss. Katniss and Peeta are also meant to be disabled after the first film, which is totally skipped over.

As a bit of entertainment and light social commentary, these films are great. But it’s important to recognise that Hollywood did exactly what these films were warning us about. 

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Louise Collins

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November 2021
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